Sunday, 10 March 2019

We’re just like everybody else


Once upon a time I was in a relationship. It lasted 4 years. Eventually I realised I was arranging things to do on the boyfriend’s days off from work, and that led to the realisation that I didn’t want to spend my spare time with him. He asked me to marry him; I turned him down.

I left pretty soon after that.

Later there were weekend flings and a few one-night stands. I don’t think they really registered though - I don’t think I was really interested.

Then I moved abroad. One very brief failure, a few one-night stands, and one near-miss - that was it in 11 years.

What this amounts to is that this century I’ve dated 0 people and been sad about 0.5 people. The 0.5 was an instructor in HK. We understood each other’s jokes right off the bat and made references to the same films - we even shared a love of one or two of the same albums. However, the more I saw of them the more I was convinced that I liked them more than they liked me. I asked them. I was right.

I left pretty soon after that.

So here’s where we are: I don’t care for relationships and I don’t miss them, in that you have to know what they are and how they feel in the first place to be able to miss them. But I still remember what it was like to find the one person I actually liked, and to enjoy their company more than my own private time, and then to realise it was all in my own head.

I’m currently binge-watching an HK dramedy called ‘My Dangerous Mafia Retirement Plan’ from 2016. It’s pretty funny and I’m enjoying the characters and witty banter. However, one character, a copper named Liu, takes an interest in a woman he’s met, and although he’s a tough, fit, smart copper, every time he’s with her he turns into the clumsiest blunderer that ever fell over a stool. This intensifies as he tries to prove he’s not a complete klutz, and then gets even worse as he tries to undo previous faux pas, mishaps and fuck-ups but only succeeds in embarrassing himself and her in various hilarious accidents. At one point he actually asks the heavens themselves what he’s done wrong in a past life and why they’re out to get him.

A colleague who knows them both decides to intervene, setting them up for repeated meet-ups, but eventually the divine machinations of their busy lives bring his bad luck to a head and Liu Sir decides enough is enough; he avoids the woman. However the colleague is sharp as a tack and tells him the reason he’s been so intent on proving he’s not actually an idiot is because he cares what she thinks of him, and he wants her to be impressed on some level. He blushes, she says that’s her proof he fancies her, and he’s left wondering what to do about it. But Best Colleague is ready for this - she tells him that the root of his ineptitude does not like wishy-washy men and he has to just tell her outright and see what she says.

He does.

And it turns out Liu Sir likes her more than she likes him.

He appears relieved, and says he just feels happier for getting it off his chest, he understands, he won’t make things weird, and he wishes her a nice life and all that. She asks if he’s ok as he’s about to walk away and he gives her a smile and says yes.

But you know what’s coming; as with all dramas he has to walk past the camera to leave the scene, and we get to see that his face is one of disappointment and maybe loneliness.

I felt for him. I’ve been there - I’m sure many of us have. Being that this is a TV show, and also being on the outside looking in, it’s easy to point and say ‘but you two are on the same wavelength; you’re basically the OTP in this show’. However the way he gives up so easily reminds me of how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

I was too ready to accept it was going to be a failure. I was too ready to agree that there was nothing special about me, certainly nothing that struck a chord in him. I was too ready to believe that little voice in my head that said ‘told you so - I really don’t know what you expected’.

If the sum of your experiences shapes your every decision that follows, then I can understand why I don’t even look at people as dateable now. I don’t meet someone and think about whether they’re fanciable or not. I don’t seem to feel anything for how physically attractive someone is - it’s like a painting or a car or anything else in that, ok, it’s very nice to look at, but it doesn’t trigger anything else and there is literally no feeling attached to the admission that it’s nice to look at. I don’t care whether they’re married, single, divorced, straight, gay, bi, pan, or anything else. It’s kind of liberating, actually. People are just things that I have to interact with, and interpersonal elements like making friends or forcing myself to think about attraction are irrelevant.

I believe this is directly linked to every other encounter I’ve had. I’ve learnt through repeated adventures that I just don’t care, and any fascination or novelty value of fancying someone or dating someone has worn off a long time ago. I don’t look for it, I don’t value it, and therefore I think I’ve written it off so it doesn’t occur to me on a day to day basis.

Queer as Folk - remember the UK series? There was a brilliant scene with Vince talking about unrequited love: “Unrequited love. It’s fantastic because it never has to change, it never has to grow up and it never has to die! ”. This is probably the closest I’ll get to feeling something for someone else. And it’s probably always going to be for some character on a TV show or in a film - the character, not the actor.

And I think I’m ok with that.


After all, people only let you down.

So I’ll continue to watch Liu Sir to see if he gets his happy ending, but part of me knows he won’t. It is an HK drama, and they don’t pander to what the public wants. And in a Matrix kind of way, if they did pair him successfully with someone I wouldn’t believe it anyway.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

HK drama: Fist Fight (兄弟) - a review


Ok, first of all: full disclosure. If anyone has ever heard of Mat Yeung (楊明) then you may know why I like him. He’s a TVB actor with a fair few series under his belt, and apart from a little real life police trouble a while back, he’s your average TVB person. Except he’s got a Resting Bitch Face of Awesome and he’s also very easy on the eyes. Well, I think it’s his attitude to the characters he plays rather than his appearance, but still, it all helps.

Anyway, now that’s out of the way, how about I try to cover the whole emotional rollercoaster of the TVB Hong Kong drama Fist Fight (兄弟) in three words.


Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for the TVB drama FIST FIGHT!


Convoluted

tiptoe, through the meanies...
tiptoe, through the meanies...
Oh my dog - you thought the mighty Marvel ‘it’s all connected ’ web of interlocking plots and subplots and hints was overly complicated? Then clearly you’ve never seen a Hong Kong drama on Speed. Much like this series, in fact. You have three blokes who couldn’t seem more disparate - one of them, Ha Tin-Hang (夏天行) played by the aforementioned Mat Yeung (楊明) is looking for any connection he can find to his real parents. This is when he’s not being very very good at his day job, which is working for a private security firm. Through no fault of his own this firm gets lumbered with protecting the arrogant and obscenely rich Fever Cheung (張非凡), played with flair and creativity by Vincent Wong (王浩信). He’s basically a gaming and web genius, who’s also very good at using social media and people to promote whatever he wants and win big. He’s not a bad person per se, but it always seems as though he’s working on something nefarious because he doesn’t see the point in trying to explain himself to others.

Add in the hot-tempered and impulsive Ho Tiht-Nam (何鐵男), played by the very capable and very bendy Philip Ng (伍允龍), a copper who’s done with all the secretive bollocks preventing him from getting evidence enough to take down proper bad guys, and you have a triumvirate who don’t seem to have very much in common other than determination.

Look man, just because people like your Resting Bitch Face doesn't mean you have to use it all the time
Actual King of the Resting Bitch Face strikes again
But wait, what’s this? Tin-Hang starts to unravel a rather unsavoury plot that involves his real parents dying in a fire - or did they? Fever appears to be part of something else entirely, with his hands in many pies, but one of them is inexplicably mixed up in who set the fire that killed Tin-Hang’s parents. Tiht-Nam is out for anyone breaking rules, but the very smart Interpol agent Madam Yeung / 楊青青 (or Ching-Ching, as she’s later called by her friends) played by the awesome Rebecca Zhu (朱晨麗) stops him from making a career-wrecking arse of himself and also ends up supporting him in more than just his job. Throw in a very positive role-model in the form of Si-Ting (馬斯婷) played with amusing gusto by Kamen Kong (江嘉敏), a host of other extras and some unbelievable plot twists, and you have an exhausting yet satisfying 30 episodes. Did I say it was a drama? I was wrong; it’s an über drama. Heart attacks, early-onset dementia, shoot-outs, lying in a coma, car chases, boxing matches, ransom demands, street fights, godmothers and grandmas, VR ghosts, X Files-esque telepathy (epic twist, by the way - and a big part of what follows), family squabbles, the economic future of Hong Kong itself - even the ICAC gets a quick look-in. I think there isn’t a plot line or twist that wasn’t used in this. It certainly made it impossible to stop binge-watching, and I have to say I never knew what they were going to get away with next. And you know what? I liked it. It was like a BBC drama on res Smarties with no brakes, and it was unpredictable.

Heart-breaking

Heard you were talking shit about my Resting Bitch Face
Heard you were talking shit about my Resting Bitch Face
You want long-lost brothers finding each other, only to lose them again? People finding love and having it whipped out from under them as if it’d never been? Being alone in the world, finding one person you trust, and having them taken from you so that you’re left with nothing? Basically all the cruelest twists of fate that the grumpiest, most cantankerous writer could come up with? Seriously, writers - who hurt you? Who did this to you that you had to take it out on innocent character creations for a mainstream soap / drama production? I know the old writer’s adage that you only torture the characters you like, but if that’s the case then bloody hell, you lot must have loved every single of the main cast with a fiery passion.

Everyone gets a chance to suppress their feelings for only so long, before they have to either scream and cry it out or beat the crap out of someone. Don’t worry though - the recipients totally deserved an epic beating.

Misnomer

Go ahead, ruin my jacket. Seriously, I've got a wardrobe full of the buggers
Go ahead, ruin my jacket. Seriously, I've got like 50
So the title Fist Fight (or in Cantonese, 兄弟 - ‘hing daai’, or ‘brothers’) is basically a massive hint that a bloke or few in this series is more to the other than we know. As the mammoth, 30-episode story unfolds, we find it’s not just them that it affects - no spoilers, but if you weren’t suspicious of the two best mates that work in the gaming / tech company, then turn in your soap / drama card right now. However, seeing as it took the brothers an eternity to work out who they were and how, and then how to exist without arguing or whumping on each other, maybe a more fitting name for this series should have been ‘Fuck Me, It’s a Free-For-All’. There were allusions to people being brothers not through blood but through sacrifice and help, and at times there were some really good ideas bandied about as to how you measure what is and what is not considered a brotherly thing.

peekaboo
peekaboo
That’s not to say the women were left out; Interpol Madam Yeung certainly had her moments and to date she’s the only person I’ve seen use a sturdy boot heel to cock a gun because she’s been shot in the other arm and it no longer has strength enough. The young security guard who successfully fought her way into the private security job and way waaaay beyond was amusing at first but as you discover her tragic back story, you decide you can accommodate her apparently constant need for cash and to be honest, her tenacity and drive impressed me before we knew what she was really made of. The only lesser character was the boxing near-champion turned coach. To be honest, more could have been done with her character (and I hate to say it, but the actress’ accent irritated me the more I tried to ignore it and let it go). The godmother was excellent and although I suspect she was in there to provide a richer back story for Tin-Nam, at least it was a godmother this time and not another wise old granddad character.

All in all, I have to say this was an 8 out of 10; not bad at all for something that started out built on boxing matches and ended up working out who was whose family and how.

My only hope is that it did well enough to warrant a second series next year. After all, I hear they’ve just started production on ‘The Exorcist’s Meter 2 ‘, I series I really enjoyed about a year ago.

And that’s all the review that’s fit to print. Now I feel a bit lost, as I was marathoning that show 3 or 4 episodes a night. Guess I’ll see what else TVB has to offer.

For now though, soopytwist everyone.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Wonton of good food


A poor pun, I know. But hey, I’m not a stand-up comedian.

Here’s basically another recipe I use - it started out as a scrapbook cutting and I’ve scribbled updates and changes to it ever since, so this is the first time I’m actually writing it out so that the damn thing’s legible.

Wonton Soup

Ingredients:
lotus root
2 litres boiling water
2 chicken stock pots
1 veg Oxo cube
Shaoxing cooking wine
Soy sauce
Toasted sesame oil (from a brand like Lee Kum Kee 李錦記)
Lotus root - about 4 large slices
Chinese leaf - 3 good size leaves
Choi sum / similar green leafy veg - one stalk plus leaves
Chinese mushrooms (soaked in cold water for 20 mins first)
Couple of small pinches of fine ground black pepper
Wontons - 8 to 10, from frozen
Vermicelli - 2 half handfuls

How to make it taste good:

Mushrooms first because they take the longest: put them in cold water and make sure they stay under the surface for 20 minutes.
Get a LARGE pan / cooking pot - this makes a lot.
Boil the water (I pour it in from the kettle because I’m lazy and can’t be arsed to wait) and add in the 2 chicken stock pots and the veg Oxo cube. Make sure it all dissolves properly.
Put the lotus root in first and bring to the boil - lotus root can be hard and needs time to soften.
Chop the leafy veg roughly (large pieces) and throw it in. Add like half a teaspoon of the toasted sesame oil and soy sauce (a little soy sauce goes a very long way). Add the pepper.
Keep it simmering and put in the vermicelli. Drain the mushrooms properly, maybe give them an extra rinse, and throw them in whole.
Add the wontons and then 2 tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) of Shaoxing cooking wine.
Let it simmer for about 5 minutes - make sure it’s stirred properly the whole time. Turn it on a low heat for about another 10 minutes to make sure the wontons are properly cooked through (especially if you used them frozen like I do).
And that’s it - remember it’s very watery soup so it’ll be bloody hot for the first 10 minutes after you’ve put it into a bowl. Then eat it!

I make a huge batch because I can then dip in and eat as much as I want over the whole weekend, but obviously halve or quarter this if you don’t want it to last that long.

Sorted. Peach and lube everyone.

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